Today I pulled the plug on my web-server Viceroy, after 27 years of uninterrupted service hosted in four or five consecutive Mac desktops at two universities. Viceroy was named for the butterfly (Limenitis archippus), a Müllerian mimic of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), because my first desktop Mac, a Quadra, was modestly called Monarch, for its imposing girth and mass—and because I am an entomologist.
At the University of Connecticut, where I served on the faculty in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from 1989 to 2014, Viceroy hosted five websites: (1) my lab’s research and teaching website; the support and download sites for (2) my biodiversity statistics software EstimateS, (3) my biodiversity database management application Biota, and (4) my biogeographical null model application RangeModel; plus (5) the Arthropods of La Selva (ALAS) database—from a 15-year inventory project in Costa Rica with Jack Longino. You can see links to the current incarnation of each of these, on the pages of my new (as of February, 2022) Owlstown site, where you are reading this blog.
At UConn, viceroy.eeb.uconn.edu ran on successive “new” Mac desktop machines as the years went by. When I retired from teaching at UConn in 2014, it was running on an iMac, under Apple’s implementation of Apache web software. With the generous support of my colleagues Christy McCain and Pat Kociolek at the University of Colorado (CU), I had been granted a position (unpaid) at the CU Natural History Museum—Museum Curator Adjoint in Entomology, with internet and library privileges, PI privileges to apply for grants, and a small office to house my library (books!) and my webserver. In return I have listed the CU Museum as an academic address in all my publications over the past 8 years.
For a web-server machine, this I bought a used iMac to match the one still hosting Viceroy at UConn, drove across the county to Boulder in 2014 with our dog Zannie and a backup hard-drive with Viceroy in silico, and arranged with IT at CU for a dedicated IP address and the sub-domain viceroy.colorado.edu. I cranked up the used iMac, populated it from the hard-drive, and closed down viceroy.eeb.uconn.edu—but not before having a re-direct set up—by the ever-reliable Nick Macintosh at UConn—so that visitors to viceroy.eeb.uconn.edu would be re-directed automatically at viceroy.colorado.edu.
Flash forward through eight years of continuous service from viceroy.colorado.edu to January 2022, by which time EstimateS had more than 11,000 journal citations and some unknown multitude of users, and my websites had hundreds of page-views per day. I got a notice from CU IT that viceroy.colorado.edu had “high-level security vulnerabilities” that must be fixed immediately (a plan of action was requested “within 3 days”)—although a careful look at the security scans they sent revealed that the same “vulnerabilities” had been noted as long ago as 2017, but without any notice, whatsoever, to me.
I will not bore you, dear reader, with the details and dramatis personae of the many avenues I pursued to solve the problem. Suffice it to say that, in the 8 years since viceroy.colorado.edu was launched, all websites within colorado.edu must now conform to procrustean “branding” and accessibly rules; all subdomains of colorado.edu must now go through a rigorous review process—and few are approved; the CU web-hosting service, Web Express, cannot host DreamWeaver-made html web-pages like those on my websites, nor support downloads of software applications.
So I shopped around for a web-hosting service that specializes in academic websites, and to my relief, discovered Owlstown, where you are reading this blog. Ian Li, who designed the Owlstown interface and is always available to help with questions, has been a joy to work with!
As a final blow, it turns out that CU (unlike UConn) has a rigid policy against setting up automatic re-directs from within colorado.edu to sites outside the university domain. The reason? “The colorado.edu domain and all sub-domains are the property of the university and, at the same time, represent the university. A redirect to a non-colorado.edu domain literally means, ‘the CU Boulder website that you have requested can be found at this other location’…this request is for a redirect to a personal website and is, by definition, not a colorado.edu owned and/or operated website. Fulfilling this request would be an inappropriate use of CU Boulder resources."
So anyone who visits viceroy.colorado.edu, starting today, will be greeted with “the server cannot be found....”—a great advertisement for the University!